Managing my mental health as a student
Prior to starting University, I struggled with my mental health but I never sought any professional help. I simply thought that I was overreacting – I was an extrovert; I couldn’t be socially anxious. I thought that a diagnosis would hang over my head like a rain cloud. Admitting that I was depressed would mean I didn’t get a job or into University,
However, when I started University, my mental health further deteriorated. I was excessively anxious to the point that I started self-harming. I hated getting out of bed in the morning and doing things. I was hardly eating. Overall, I struggled to function properly socially and with my education.
During my first term of University, I was in denial. I wasn’t unwell. I was perfectly fine. However, at a particularly bad point, I ended up bursting into tears in my kitchen because I had to eat in front of a hallmate.
After realising that things were getting so bad, I reached a momentary brave point. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I knew that something was. I decided to go to a mental health wellbeing drop-in session. The lady I saw was helpful in outlining what I needed to do next. She sent me some self-help resource links and suggested that I got in touch with the counselling department. I liked that despite having an issue, I was treated like an adult. Seeking further help was entirely my decision. At this point, I was still reluctant, so if anyone tried to force me to seek help, I feel like it would have done more harm than help.
However, I mulled over accessing support from the University of Warwick Counselling service. I did not want to waste anyone’s time by droning on about myself. However, I reluctantly signed up for counselling as my mental health was getting a bit worse. I only had to wait three weeks for my first appointment with a counsellor which I was amazed by considering NHS waiting times.
For the first time, I had the opportunity to talk about my past experiences without judgment. It helped me connect my past experiences with my present behaviours, and the large mess of my life seemed more understandable. My mental health further declined during term three. I was pretty much robbed of my ability to function. I spent most of my day in bed, strategically avoiding my flat-mates where possible. I was unmotivated to study for my exams.
My anxiety levels were through the roof and my eating patterns deteriorated further. At this point, I talked to my personal tutor. She encouraged me to fill in a form to see a mental health wellbeing coordinator. I was very unlikely to do this myself. I knew something was wrong, and I wanted to change. However, I did not feel strong enough to take the first step. Therefore, having someone to gently nudge me was very important.
When I saw the mental health coordinator, she recommended I saw a GP. I saw my GP the following day, and she referred me to a specialist team in Coventry. Having help in place for the second year has helped me to manage my mental health whilst staying in University. My mental health mentor has helped me in accessing the right kinds of support. I now sit my exams outside of the main exam hall, and I receive extra time. Additionally, towards the end of my second year, I had weekly sessions with a mental health mentor who focused on helping me in practically dealing with my mental health. For instance, anxiety management in situations that I might find difficult so I can still get on with the task I am doing.
Also, my department and they were very understanding. My senior tutor assured me that putting my mental health before work was important. Additionally, she explained ways in which I could get further help from the department and lecturers if I needed it. It was nice knowing that I was not alone in my struggles and that the department was supportive and not dismissive.
I think that accessing support if you are struggling with poor mental health is very important. I know for me, it has definitely helped with making academic pressures easier.